The two Western Conference powers clash for the first of two rapid-fire meetings after RSL took their U.S. Open Cup semifinal encounter.After months of staying out of each other's paths, the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake are getting quite familiar with one another.
Following a U.S. Open Cup semifinal bout won by Real Salt Lake, two of the top teams in the Western Conference meet for the first time in league play -- the first of two meetings in a nine-day span -- at Jeld-Wen Field Wednesday night.
RSL, coming off a 4-2 loss to the LA Galaxy, leads the West and the race for the Supporters' Shield, and boasts bragging rights from eliminating the Timbers to reach the Open Cup final. Portland, however, is just three points off the pace with two games in hand, and is tied with the Montreal Impact with an MLS-best 1.65 points per game.
Both sides will be missing their captains for the vital meeting. Real Salt Lake midfield anchor and U.S. national team member Kyle Beckerman is suspended because of card accumulation, while former RSL midfielder and current Portland skipper Will Johnson is out with a shoulder injury suffered in the 2-1 Open Cup loss at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Both teams boast the midfield depth to overcome the key absences, with Yordany Alvarez coming off a three-game suspension at an ideal time for RSL manager Jason Kreis and Portland manager Caleb Porter likely to turn again to Ben Zemanski as he did in the club's 2-1 victory over FC Dallas last weekend.
In Wednesday's match, RSL will be looking to avoid piling up consecutive losses for the second time in as many months -- and all season. Conversely, Portland, despite its success in 2013, will be looking to accumulate consecutive wins for just the second time all season. The Timbers last accomplished the feat in April, with back-to-back wins over Houston and San Jose. Since then, the club is 0-1-5 in games following a victory.